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EghtesadOnline: The coronavirus has pushed the pause button on industries around the world and helped in curbing pollution in all its manifestations.

Scientists, climate experts and activists, conservationists and teachers of the environment rather see the grave developments as ‘blessing in disguise’. In light of the calamities visiting Mother Earth over decades few can blame them!

However, for water consumption in the household sector, the opposite holds true. The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed a massive health and economic burden on communities around the world, and no sector is spared, in particular the critically   important water sector, ISNA reported.

According to Banafsheh Zahraee, secretary of the National Workgroup on Adaptation to Water Shortage, the scale and scope of the pandemic on the water sector is emerging gradually. One realm that is bearing the brunt is municipal water demand. 

“Available data indicate that residential water demand has shot up while non-residential use has shrunk.”

Pointing to the daily global per capita water use as being between 135-140 liters, Zahraee, who is a lecturer at Tehran University, noted that since February 2019 when the plague broke out, water consumption has increased by at least 30% in Iran. In metropolitan cities, namely Tehran and Isfahan, daily consumption has surpassed 250 liters a day per person.

“Utilities will face serious challenges sooner rather than later unless consumers rethink their consumption patterns.”

Referring to demographic data on Iran, she noted that close to 50% of the country’s 82 million people live near the central plateau catchment area, the biggest among the six primary drainage basins that is fighting a losing battle against drought. The disturbing trend appears to be gaining momentum with population growth and unorganized urban development.

Almost 25% of the population loves in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman catchment area and the rest rely on renewable water resources that are depleting faster than expected.

Water-Stressed Regions

“Seen optimistically, over 28 million people in Iran (about a third of the population) live in water-stressed regions.”

Water extraction from ground resources has exceeded 140 billion cubic meters per annum and this accounts for 83% of rural water supply, 63% for industries and 57% municipal water, she added.

The World Health Organization estimates that half of the world's population could be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. With 70% of fresh water being used for agriculture and more than half being wasted due to inefficient systems, scientists stress the need for improvement along with environment-friendly polices across the board.

The mandate of the workgroup on adaptation to water shortage — established in 2018 — is not limited to policymaking as it also oversees provincial plans on adapting to water scarcity and helps implement projects.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade, the Energy Ministry and the Iran Meteorological Organization are members of the group planning and making decisions regarding the unfolding water crisis and ways to overcome it.

After its birth the team asked governors generals in the provinces to outline plans in line with their water needs, potential and challenges that can become law if necessary.

“So far, 20 provinces (from the total 31) have submitted plans and proposals that are being reviewed by the workgroup,” Zahraee said.

Frequent and proper handwashing is the most basic frontline defense against the spread of Covid-19. A quarter of the world’s population lacks access to reliable water supply — a far cry from the aspirations of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 — Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. 

The pandemic has heightened awareness of both the extent and consequences of the deficit and it could slow progress in meeting the SDG 6 development goal as revenue losses by water utilities undermine their ability to make critical capital investments.

 

Water coronavirus pandemic